The Bolt Cutter

Had the rain not driven us inside yesterday, before I’d assembled the first of the benches for which we had purchased the wood and bolts, I may have been saved the rude awakening in the middle of the night when I realised a somewhat more than minor miscalculation. It is customary, you see, for me to make a slight error when attempting D.I.Y. Had I discovered this one before going to bed, I may not have dreamt about it.Dump bench mark 2
The two pairs of garden bench sides required a total of nineteen wooden slats. I also needed the bolts and nuts to fit. So how many nuts and bolts did I buy? With the possible exception of Orlaith, my youngest grandchildren could probably provide the answer.
So. Jackie’s first task this morning was to drive off and buy another nineteen of each.
Whilst she was out I carried on with the job. Had I realised that it would be simpler, and easier on the back, to assemble the seat on a table rather than on the ground, I may have got a little further than raising a sweat. I had just begun to work on a small table by the time Jackie returned.Washer holding slat in place It was her suggestion that I should use two tables and balance a borrowed section of the IKEA wardrobe fence across them. One of the cast iron sides was broken, and so deprived of a hole through which to thread a bolt. I thought it sheer genius to suggest we borrowed a washer from one of Barrie Haynes’s favourite wheelbarrows to secure the bolt. Derrick on dump bench mark 2View from dump bench mark 2Apart from Jackie’s brains, I needed her to help screw in the bolts and tighten the nuts.
When Jackie had photographed me on the Nottingham Castle bench, Becky had commented that the structure came with its own hobo. Naturally, therefore, this shot had to be reprised as I sat admiring the vista opposite.
Both our sheds were leaking, because their roofing felt has perished, and one had rotten barge boards. Rod’s Repairs, who are to be highly recommended, came and fixed them today, as I began bolting the  seats into our second spare set of cast iron side pieces. Having been well schooled in the process with the first one this morning, I didn’t need to take Jackie away from her own gardening tasks too much, except to hold the structure in place near the end of the job.
Rubbish from compostCleared areaExcept also for the car ride, that is. We needed some different length bolts so went back to Travis Perkins for them. They were closed. So we did an about turn and drove to Knights at Lymington. They were closed. So we did another about turn and went to Milford Supplies who had not had the right length this morning, but had some a bit longer. We bought those.
Apart from interruptions, Jackie had finished emptying our predecessors’ compost maker, and, as usual, been astounded at what they had thought might make good compost. In fairness, it may have been the dog that buried the bone. She had also heavily pruned some overgrown euphorbia thus revealing some other treasures, such as a clematis, a camellia, and a rose that had all been obscured by it.
Bolt cutterDerrick tightening boltsHaving returned home I continued with my task. The sides of the bench I was working on still contained bolts well rusted in. Considerable pressure was required to sever these with the heavy duty cutter. As I clipped through sixteen of these I thought of a story my old Westminster Social Services friend Ken Coleman once delighted in telling. One of Ken’s responsibilities involved regular visits to a residential care home for people with learning difficulties. Each time he attended the establishment he was presented with the bolt cutter challenge, as was virtually every other visitor.
One staggeringly strong young male resident was engaged in what must have been quite a long term fencing task. This involved cutting through an Alcatraz type metal trellis with a cutter most other people would be unable to lift, yet alone employ. He was immensely proud of his implement and what he could do with it. The unwary visitor would be given a demonstration of how easy it was to cut through the cable, and invited to have a go. The initial wide welcoming grin would, almost imperceptibly take on a wicked twinkle as he handed over the weapon and supervised the ensuing struggle. His victim would be unable even to prise apart the handles, and very quickly forced to admit defeat. Our young man would take back his cutter, and beam with unashamed pride.
Our second refurbished garden bench has been deposited in what is still the kitchen garden, in readiness for its metamorphosis into a rose one. Jackie on refurbished benchWhen the transformation is View from kitchen gardencomplete, the seat from which Jackie is, when I am not standing in the way with a camera, looking out down the Heligan path, will be set back against the fence behind it.
We dined this evening on pork spare ribs in barbecue sauce; wild rice and peas; and Heinz Beanz. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes du Rhone.

Imperial Knob Screws

The garden was looking very inviting today, blossom, such as apple and ornamental cherry abounding, but the house itself remains a priority for our attention.
Flo is coming a day earlier, so we set out early to B & Q, the national DIY company originally set up by Messrs Block & Quayle in Southampton in 1969. Marks & Spencer’s, is of course, another large national outlet known by its founders’ initials. Our high streets are also graced by C & A and H & M stores; the first being the first name initials of the Dutch entrepreneurs who founded the store in 1841, and the second from the surnames of Swedes Hennes & Mauritz in 1947. C and A were Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer. As Michael Caine famously claims never to have said, ‘not a lot of people know that’.
Now, where was I? Ah, yes. B & Q.
We went in search of curtain rails and the missing screws from the door knobs that fell off on 31st March. Jackie found the curtain rails whilst  I rummaged through rows and rows of screws, bolts and nuts seeking something that might possibly fit the bar I had in my pocket. I only found two fittings that might vaguely serve the purpose. Both were too long. I reported to one of the check-out desks to ask if they had any more. The helpful young lady put out an SOS on the tannoy asking someone from hardware to come and assist me.
Now there’s a word to conjure with. Tannoy.
Tannoy is a Scottish -based loud speaker and public address system manufacturing company. Never having any idea who has installed the particular system we are listening to, we always call such a facility ‘the tannoy’. Just as a vacuum cleaner is always a ‘hoover’ and a ball-point pen ‘a biro’. Even Google, the search engine that provided me with the information on Tannoy, is now a noun to be found in dictionaries.
Ah, yes. B & Q.
Clive soon appeared and rummaged, equally unsuccessfully, with me. He announced that they didn’t do them, and suggested Castles, ‘an old-fashioned ironmongers’. Jackie and I didn’t know where Castles was, but she had googled ironmongers the night before, and knew there was one in Lymington. So off we drove to Lymington, which, incidentally is in the opposite direction to Christchurch. There Jackie, having done her usually successful google walk didn’t quite get a turning right in the car, and moreover wasn’t sure of the name. We ended up at Crystals at the far end of the High Street. It wasn’t possible to park there, so Jackie continued on round the one-way system to Waitrose, where she went shopping whilst I back-tracked to the hardware shop. There a very helpful young woman directed me to Central Southern Security just past the railway station at the other end of the street. I knew this because we had passed it earlier. So off I went on foot the way we had come in the car.
Another helpful individual, this time a man, hunted among his screws for something that might fit. He explained, as had the young woman earlier, that these screws normally came as a set with the knobs, and there wasn’t much call for them these days. Also they had an old kind of thread. He didn’t find anything suitable, but he did send me on to a real ironmongers called Knights, opposite the library.

And there I struck lucky and bought four imperial screws at 20p each. The old thread must be an imperial measure.
Then I had to find my way back to Waitrose car park. I realised that I was probably now in a direct line to the car park and should not have to retrace my steps back to and along the High Street. I had exchanged greetings with a traffic warden earlier, and suddenly spotted him again. Now, who else but an ambulant traffic warden would know the quickest way there?

He did, and directed me through a car park; along a couple of cuts, or back alleys; and across a cemetery, to Southampton Road where I would be ‘near enough there’. Miraculously, I followed the route and ended up at Waitrose just as Jackie was emerging with a loaded trolley. This was handy because I was beginning to think that a Modus in that forest of cars was like a needle in a haystack.
Jackie rather kicked herself for not remembering the ironmonger’s name.
Becky and Flo arrived early this evening and the four of us dined at Elephant Walk Indian restaurant in Highcliffe. A little more upmarket than others we have enjoyed, the food here was superb, but we had to wait for it. The service was friendly, but one had the feeling the two women on duty were rather overstretched.

The Knocker

Soon after 6 a.m., reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, there he was, the blackbird, ‘rapping, rapping, at my’ office window. This went on for hours this morning. Jackie is quite worried about the poor creature. Let’s hope he gets fixed up with a mate soon.
When preparing for the fray he perches on a shrub we may be able to identify once it has bloomed.
Last night Jackie had researched architectural salvage outlets that might provide the missing article from our front door. She came up with Ace Reclaim at West Parley near Ferndown. We didn’t think we’d have time yesterday to get there before they closed, so deferred our trip to this morning.

Down a very rough track beside a garden centre, we found a veritable aladdin’s cave of treasures from bygone eras for the home and garden. What I liked was that almost everything carried an individual price tag. This makes life easier for me as I am emotionally ill equipped to haggle. I would have played the part of Brian in his eponymous film’s haggling scene rather well.
The men on site were friendly and unobtrusive. We were allowed to wander at will and were left alone to forage in the cabinet containing what we required.

Maybe it was the knocker on the window that focussed us on the missing one on our front door. Maybe we were becoming self-conscious about Jackie’s invitation to all and sundry:

Maybe it was both. Anyway, we found one. It didn’t have any bolts with it, so off we went to B & Q. Before reaching this DIY store at Christchurch we were tempted by Mum’s cafe. Situated on Fairmile Road between Norfolk and Suffolk Avenues this marvellous establishment serves a range of beautifully home cooked food of excellent quality.

Naturally we had brunch.

The bolts in B & Q were sold in packets of ten with their measurements in millimetres. I am quite used to seeing packets of peanuts bearing the warning ‘may contain nuts’. The bolt containers were unequivocal in their message that they did contain nuts. Actually we didn’t need the nuts, but I don’t suppose the company would take them back and give us a discount.

Working out the thread diameters was fairly straightforward, given that we had the knocker with us. The length we would require was a little more problematic since we hadn’t brought the relevant door with us. Jackie had the brilliant idea that we could measure the thickness of one of the doors on sale in the store. She did that whilst I went to choose a drill.

Back home we discovered that our front door, although comparatively modern, was thicker than those at B & Q. So back we went to change the bolts, and returned home in time for me to receive a welcome phone call from Sam.

There were no bits provided with the drill, which was no problem because I had a case of drills at home. Somewhere. In a box. Somewhere.

I had seen them. I know I had. In this house. In a box.

So a search ensued. Eventually I found them in a box marked fragile. From a previous move. Obviously.

Then I had to decide which bit to use. Which ones were for masonry and which for wood? A bit of trial and error was employed. Finally I had drilled two neat holes through the centre of the door. Just not quite the right distance apart.

‘One bolt will hold it firmly in place’, was Jackie’s encouraging observation. It did. I will do my best to forget my error. It might take some time.

This evening Jackie drove us to Totton and back, so we could dine at The Family House. Our continued custom after the move paled into insignificance when compared to that of a woman and her son who had returned on holiday from Queensland in Australia. When they had lived in Totton they had been regulars of  this restaurant. The food was as good as ever, the company as convivial, and the T’Sing Tao beer as thirst quenching.